The top 20 games of the 2016 college football season

Jonesing for football? We are too. So we decided to relive the 20 best games of the 2016 college football season. 

Last year was really entertaining, so it was hard to pick just 20. We thought about picking just 10 or 15 and quickly found that there were too many candidates to choose from. Below is our list of 2016’s greatest games. If you think we forgot one, let us know in the comments below. 

No. 20 Army-Navy

What better way to kick off our rankings than by including one of the most famous college football games. Army broke a 14-game losing streak against a banged-up Navy squad with a 21-17 win.

While then president-elect Donald Trump wasn’t too thrilled with the quality of football he watched during the game, it was definitely a good one. Army jumped out to a 14-0 lead but Navy came back to go up 17-14. The Black Knights responded with a 12-play, 80-yard drive for the go-ahead touchdown with six minutes to go.


No. 19 NC State-Clemson

If you like missed field goals, this game was for you. Well, if you like missed field goals and are a Clemson fan. NC State fans can go ahead and skip to No. 18 because they know all too well how this game turned out.

Clemson had four turnovers but survived 24-17 in overtime thanks to a missed game-winning field goal by NC State. The kick was one of three missed field goals (including a blocked kick) by NC State kicker Kyle Bambard. Yes, if one of those field goals goes in, NC State wins in regulation.

The win moved Clemson to 7-0 and kept the Tigers’ national title hopes alive. The significance of the game plays into why it’s at No. 19 too. If Clemson doesn’t survive, who knows how the College Football Playoff goes.

No. 18 Ohio-Texas State

This was a fun way to kick off the season. The Texas State Bobcats took down the Ohio Bobcats 56-54 in three overtimes. Since it went to three overtimes, the game was decided on two-point conversions.

Texas State scored first in the third overtime as quarterback Tyler Jones caught a 22-yard touchdown pass. Jones was then back at his traditional spot for the conversion and hit Gabe Schrade for the follow-up score.

Ohio QB Greg Windham hit Elijah Ball for a score immediately after Texas State’s TD but Ohio missed the two. The win was just one of two that Texas State got all season.

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No. 17 Tennessee-Texas A&M

Tennessee was involved in some fun games in 2016. The Volunteers dropped a dramatic two-overtime game to the Aggies 45-38 after (finally) coming up short in a second-half comeback.

This game wasn’t the prettiest. But it was entertaining as hell. Tennessee committed six turnovers — five of them were fumbles — and found itself down 28-7 in the third quarter. But A&M couldn’t salt the game away thanks to this play here.


Tennessee went down the field in less than 70 seconds for the game-tying score. That left too much time for Texas A&M, which subsequently stormed down the field for a potential game-winning field goal. But it missed and the game headed to overtime, where A&M was victorious.

No. 16 Ohio State-Wisconsin

In front of a raucous crowd in Madison, Ohio State’s offense was sputtering. But after trailing 16-6 at halftime, the No. 2 Buckeyes, led by J.T. Barrett, stormed back to win 30-23 in overtime. Barrett had a big game, throwing for 226 yards, running for 92 and three total TDs, but it was the OSU defense that kept things close by stopping No. 8 Wisconsin several times in the red zone.

OSU clawed its way back and forced overtime on Tyler Durbin’s third field goal of the game. The Buckeyes scored to open overtime and stuffed the Badgers on four plays inside the 5-yard line to pull out the victory.

No. 15 Temple-UCF

Including its win in the AAC title game, Temple reeled off seven straight wins down the stretch. The first of those wins was an awesome comeback to beat UCF in Orlando.

The Owls trailed 25-14, but cut the lead to 25-20 entering the fourth. But it wasn’t until the game’s final second — literally — when Temple took its only lead of the ballgame. A long completion moved the Owls to the UCF 8-yard line with about 10 seconds to go. Everyone expected QB Philip Walker to spike the ball. Instead he tossed it to Keith Kirkwood for the game-winning touchdown.

No. 14 Oklahoma-Texas Tech

This is your No. 1 if you love offense. Here’s why.

• The teams combined for 76 first downs. Tech had 42.

• Tech QB Patrick Mahomes had 819 total yards. He set the NCAA record, throwing for 734 yards and rushing for 85. He also threw 88 passes, one short of the FBS record.

• OU and Tech combined for 1,708 yards, the most combined yards in any FBS game ever.

OU quarterback Baker Mayfield threw for seven touchdowns as the Sooners won 66-59.

No. 13 San Diego State-Wyoming

This game had a big impact on Western Michigan’s appearance in the Cotton Bowl vs. Wisconsin.
Wyoming beat the Aztecs 34-33, snapping a 17-game win streak for San Diego State.

The game got crazy late when San Diego State pulled within a point on a crazy Hail Mary pass with no time left that was initially ruled incomplete.


Big kudos to SDSU coach Rocky Long, who didn’t want to play for overtime. The Aztecs went for two after the catch was ruled via replay but it didn’t work. Wyoming stopped SDSU.

The Cowboys win came as Western Michigan moved to 11-0 the same weekend. Because the Broncos went undefeated in the regular season, they ended up as the best non-Power Five team in the College Football Playoff rankings.

No. 12 Louisville-Clemson

The game between the two best quarterbacks in college football in 2016 had to be on this list. And it lived up to the billing.

Louisville QB Lamar Jackson hit receiver James Quick with time running out in the fourth quarter on fourth down. But Quick positioned himself toward the sidelines and got knocked out of bounds inside the 5-yard line.

That was a problem. Louisville needed to score. The Cardinals didn’t, and Clemson won 42-36.

Jackson threw for 295 yards and a score and had 162 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Clemson QB Deshaun Watson threw three interceptions but countered them with five touchdowns and 306 yards passing.

No. 11 Wyoming-UNLV

This game was bonkers. The Rebels beat the Cowboys 69-66 in three overtimes after Wyoming tied the score in regulation with an incredible drive.

The Cowboys started at their own 3-yard-line with 1:06 remaining. Wyoming marched 78 yards and got to the UNLV 19 with time for one play left. Quarterback Josh Allen hit wide receiver Tanner Gentry on a crazy touchdown pass with no time left to tie the score with the succeeding extra point at 52-52.

UNLV wasn’t discouraged, however. After the two teams matched touchdowns in the first two overtime periods, Allen was picked off in the third overtime. UNLV won the game on a 40-yard field goal by Nicolai Bornand.

The loss was the first Mountain West loss of the season for Wyoming, which ended up winning the conference’s Mountain division in a three-way tiebreaker.

[More college football from Yahoo Sports: Dr. Saturday’s still-too-early Top 25]

No. 10 Arkansas-TCU

It’s not often that a blocked field goal by a 6-foot-10 offensive tackle becomes a critical play in a game, but that’s what saved the day for Arkansas against TCU. With 10 seconds to go, TCU had a chance to win the game with a 28-yard field goal, so the Razorbacks put Dan Skipper on the kick block unit and the big man managed to get his hand on the kick to force overtime.

Both teams scored touchdowns in the first overtime, but TCU settled for a field goal in the second extra frame. That paved the way for a game-winning five-yard touchdown run by QB Austin Allen.


Skipper’s block and Allen’s run ensured Arkansas didn’t blow a pretty big lead (they saved that for later in the season). Bret Bielema’s team looked pretty good at that point, but ended up having a lackluster season.

No. 9 Alabama-Ole Miss

It sure felt like Alabama was going to succumb to Ole Miss once again.

The Tide went down 24-3 to Ole Miss in the first half of the teams’ September matchup. But Alabama quickly flipped the script and went on to win 48-43.

That script flip was executed by the Alabama defense, which was a pretty potent scoring unit throughout the season. The Tide got defensive scores from Da’Ron Payne and Jonathan Allen in the midst of a 45-6 run in a span of less than 30 minutes from the second quarter to 5:28 left in the fourth.

Suddenly trailing 48-30, Ole Miss stayed in the game. The Rebels scored two touchdowns in eight seconds to pull within 48-43 with 2:51 left thanks to a successful onside kick.

But the two-point conversion to make the game a three-point margin didn’t work, and Alabama ended up salting the game away.

No. 8 Big Ten Championship Game

Penn State was a second half team all season long, and it proved it with its performance in the second half of the Big Ten title game against Wisconsin. The Badgers were firmly in control of the game early and jumped ahead 28-7 late in the second quarter. PSU cut it to 28-14 at the break before quickly tying things up with two third-quarter touchdowns.

After the Badgers took a 31-28 with a short field goal, Penn State took its first lead on a gorgeous wheel route touchdown pass from Trace McSorley to star running back Saquon Barkley, who sprinted past eventual first-round draft pick T.J. Watt.

Still, Wisconsin, which racked up nearly 250 rushing yards, had the chance to tie things late but were stuffed on a fourth-and-1 play in PSU territory, giving the Nittany Lions the Big Ten championship. 

No. 7 Pitt-Clemson

Real quick, try to remember the only team to beat national champion Clemson in 2016. Unless you follow the sport 24/7, it may have taken you a minute before you remembered it was Pittsburgh. The Panthers went into Death Valley and somehow emerged with a wild 43-42 victory, snapping a 21-game ACC winning streak for Clemson.

Panthers kicker Chris Blewitt had a big role in this one. His missed extra point in the second quarter meant his team trailed for much of the afternoon by a single point, but the senior went on to drill a 48-yarder in the final seconds to seal a huge upset.

Pitt gave up 630 yards of offense, but forced enough Clemson turnovers to keep itself within striking distance. Clemson’s Deshaun Watson threw three interceptions, including one on the goal line with a chance to give the Tigers a two-score lead in the fourth. Instead, that interception allowed Pitt to cut the lead to 42-40 and, after a big fourth down stop, eventually win on Blewitt’s clutch kick.

No. 6 Tennessee-Georgia

Any game that ends with a walk-off Hail Mary has to make this list. And when it was the third touchdown in a game’s final three minutes, and second in the last 10 seconds (for real!), it gets prominent placement.

That’s what happened Oct. 2 in Athens and it was a huge heartbreaker for Georgia. The Bulldogs led almost the entire game, but Tennessee finally took its first lead, 28-24, with 2:56 to go when Georgia QB Jacob Eason was strip-sacked in the end zone and the Vols fell on the loose ball for a score.

That’s when the theatrics began. With 10 seconds left, Eason somehow found Riley Ridley behind the defense for a 47-yard touchdown.

That looked like it’d be the game-winner, but a short kickoff gave the Vols life. Josh Dobbs and Jauan Jennings made Georgia pay:

No. 5 Central Michigan-Oklahoma State

The record books will show that Central Michigan beat Oklahoma State 30-27 on Sept. 10, but Mike Gundy and most OSU fans will say the Cowboys won the game.

For a minute, we thought so, too.


Well, and then all of this happened:





Because Mason Rudolph was penalized for intentional grounding by throwing the ball high and out of bounds to have the clock expire, Central Michigan was given an untimed down. CMU’s Cooper Rush bombed one down the field to Jesse Kroll, who pitched the ball to Corey Willis. Willis took it the rest of the way for a walk-off touchdown to give CMU an unlikely win.

But it shouldn’t have counted. Because an intentional grounding foul includes a loss of down, the period is not supposed to be extended. The officiating error mistakenly gave CMU another chance and ultimately cost Oklahoma State a win.

No. 4 Ohio State-Michigan

The spot was good. Yes, Michigan fans, J.T. Barrett really did get that first down.

Instead of trying to force a third overtime with a field goal, Urban Meyer decided to go for it on 4th & 1 from the Michigan 16. Barrett, OSU’s junior quarterback, just barely — no matter how closely the Michigan conspiracy theorists (or Jim Harbaugh) scrutinize each angle — picked up the first down.

On the next play, Curtis Samuel took a sweep to the left side and bursted into the end zone for a score, giving OSU a 30-27 win. The Buckeyes overcame a 17-7 second half deficit to rally back for the win and improve to 11-1.

No. 3 Orange Bowl

The matchup between the second-best teams in the ACC and Big Ten lived up to its billing. Florida State and Michigan went back-and-forth in a wild fourth quarter that ended with the Seminoles ahead 33-32.

After Florida State went up 27-15, Michigan scored two-straight times to take a 30-27 lead. Florida State responded with a fantastic drive that ended with quarterback Deondre Francois hitting wide receiver Nyqwan Murray for a 12-yard score and a 33-30 lead with 36 seconds left.

The three-point lead lasted for a minute or so in real time and exactly no time in game time. Michigan blocked the Seminoles’ point-after try — a successful kick would have meant Michigan needed a touchdown to win — and returned it for two to make the game 33-32.

But Michigan couldn’t get in position for a field goal at the end of the game.

No. 2 Rose Bowl

The Rose Bowl between USC and Penn State was action-packed from beginning to end, highlighted by two of the game’s young stars: Sam Darnold and Saquon Barkley. This night would eventually belong to Darnold as the Trojans overcame Penn State’s crazy third quarter scoring burst to win on a last-second field goal, 52-49.

The Trojans jumped out to a 20-7 lead, but PSU’s explosive offense soared back to cut the lead to 27-21 at halftime. In the first five minutes of the third quarter, PSU had three — yes, three — one-play scoring drives, including Barkley’s fantastic 79-yard TD run, to surge in front 42-27.

But USC kept fighting and Darnold led his team all the way back to tie the game at 49 with 1:20 to go. PSU went back to its deep ball attack, but Trace McSorley was intercepted, setting up a game-winning 46-yard field goal by Matt Boermeester to cap off a thriller.

No. 1 National Championship Game

The rematch was even better than the original. Alabama edged Clemson 45-40 to win the College Football Playoff national title the year before. This time, Clemson got its revenged and did so in dramatic fashion.

Deshaun Watson hit Hunter Renfrow for a game-winning touchdown as time expired to give the Tigers their second national championship in program history, 35-31. The Watson-to-Renfrow connection capped off a wild fourth quarter. Clemson finally took its first lead of the game with 4:38 left in regulation, but Alabama reclaimed the lead a few minutes on a TD run by freshman QB Jalen Hurts.

Down 31-28, the Tigers had 2:07 to win or send the game to overtime. They took every second at their disposal to finish off one of the best title games of all time.